Spreading your idea over too many words will spoil your writing.
It is very easy, and tempting, to overdo it when it comes to communicating your ideas. You understand it, and you want to make others understand it, so you go at it from every angle. The problem is that this can be at the expense of clarity and brevity.
Don’t Express, Impress!
Remember – whatever you write, is for someone else’ benefit. So, be selfless when you choose what to write. Resist the temptation to use unnecessary vocabulary and decorated language to fuel weak ideas. This essentially makes you a bad communicator. The Harvard linguist, Steven Pinker, highlights that-
“Smart people sour their thoughts through attempts to impress others. They spurn simplicity from a desire to prove that they are not bad scientists, lawyers, or academics—in doing so, they unwittingly prove they are bad communicators”.
It’s About Depth, Not Breadth
What makes a boring story? A plot that grows horizontally, rather than vertically. One that focuses too much on breadth, rather than the depth of the content. Only write more, if it actually serves to develop the point, not just to explain something further (because it should have been explained sufficiently well in the first place).
Write With One Person In Mind
Warren Buffet is known for his shareholder letters, simply because they are so well-put. He heavily stresses clear communication and points to the SEC’s official Plain English Handbook, which advocates imagining that you are writing for one person. Buffet famously asks his sisters to read his words on the basis that they should be understood by the average intelligent person who is not necessarily a specialist in finance, i.e. the average stockholder.
Aim For Re-Earning Attention
According to David Ogilvy –
“Once the advertising headline is written, you’ve spent eighty cents of your dollar. You must open with gusto.”
With great writing, it is not just enough to earn attention. You will have to continuously work to re-earn the attention. Sustenance is the key. If you lose people’s interests somewhere in between, there’s a high chance that the story will never be told.
Overall, get to the point and stick to it.
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